Monthly Archives: January 2016

Lighter Fare


Pesce fresche!

By Allan Gillis

It is Friday. I had wanted to do this last year and the year before… just kept getting out of my grasp.  Meatless Fridays.  I resolved for this New Year to keep the First Fridays holy and to observe at least an abstinence on Fridays – the day of the week on which my Lord died on the cross for me.

I’ve heard that even McDonald’s developed their Filet-O-Fish Sandwich back in the early sixties originally to appeal to customers in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Cincinnati by one of their franchise-owners who wanted to still be able to capture business on Fridays – despite the religious adherence to observing the fast by the Catholic clientele.  This was back in 1962.  UUUHH-HUMMM!, need I point out that this was before Vatican II?  Nahh…shouldn’t say that!  Pope Francis will call me ossified, obstinate and idolatrous.

Anyway, I often find myself caught – especially at lunchtime with the tantalizing notion of something sizzling, blood-red, juicey and protein-packed.  I could NEVER be a vegan or a vegetarian!  I LOVE MEAT!  I get hungry walking through a barn-yard! (I’m NOT kidding!).  Lettuce and baby-greens?  nahhh  no thanks – that is food food.  Get it?

So, depriving myself for one day a week is spiritually a good thing.  BUT.  I do so love seafood!  I’m half Italian and half Scottish.  My people on both sides historically subsisted mainly on “frutti di mare” – fruits of the sea. Baccala, calamari, shrimp scampi with my Mom’s family…  and they often refer to my father’s ilk as “Herrin-chokers”…     a lot of fish – believe me! – whether it was from the all-surrounding waters of Scotland or New Scotland (Nova Scotia). [interesting Latin connection there – cuz, the Scots that escaped to this place where Roman Catholics chased from the still-Catholic/Gaelic-speaking northwest highlands and the Hebrides of Scotland]  I love fish so much – I mean REAL fish…like mackerel, fresh sardines, smelts and herring.  Leave the buttered sole for the wimps – well, maybe I’ll take a taste o’ that after all – thank you…

So here is part of my feast for Friday today:Polpo 1

Octopus! – fresh from Spain!  jetted in last night …was in the Alboran Sea on Tuesday!    Oh Baby!   Rinse and clean the tentacles well…    then..heat about 1 1/2′ – 2″ of olive oil in a pan   –  well before it smokes…   put in the octopus  – or “Polpo” in Italian…cook ’til the oil becomes red with the “ink” – then turn him over…cook the other side and cover to simmer for 20 minutes or so


Polpo 3

Insalata di Polpo!   cut the tentacles off – I discard the head or “tube”.  Slice the tentacles into bite-size pieces and add to your salad.  Here I had some baby-greens, black olives, sliced red peppers and sliced cherry-tomatoes. Virgin olive oil and regular red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper and a bit of herbs-de Provence!


Polpo 4

I added this to my repast…    steamed some fresh Maine clams…    some Sauvignon Blanc and a half-loaf of my own home-baked whole-grain Spelt bread!

Maybe not such an abstinence after all?

“Celebrate The Reformation!”



By Allan Gillis

Yeah Baaaby!!!     PAAARRRTAAYYY!!!
Martin Luther he’s our man! …Roman Papists in the garbarge can!

The Pope is going to “celebrate” and “commemorate” the so-called Protestant “Reformation”!!! Yaaaayyyy!!!! Yippeeee!!  Check this out all you wild-n’-crazy dudes and dudettes!!!

“VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis will visit Sweden, one of the world’s least religious countries, for a joint celebration in October between Lutherans and Catholics to launch commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.”

A friend of mine reminds me; “To ‘commemorate’ is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as “to recall and show respect for (someone or something) in a ceremony.” My bud then asks; “How is it possible for a pope to “commemorate” and “celebrate” the occasion of the division of the Body of Christ, and the falling away of Christians from the Catholic Church in the Reformation? ”

Good question brutha!!!

May I remind Frankie-The-Hippie-Pope of what Cool-Hand Luther had to say back then – about one of Frankie’s predecessors?   Feast thine eyes you wretched fellow papists:
“Yes, we afterward established in our decretals that only the pope should convoke councils and name the participants.” But dear one, is this true? Who commanded you to establish this? “Silence, you heretic! What comes out of our mouth must be kept!” I hear it—which mouth do you mean? The one from which the farts come? (You can keep that yourself!) Or the one into which the good Corsican wine flows? (Let a clog shit in to that!) “Oh, you abominable Luther, should you talk to the pope like this?” …Shame on you too, you blasphemous, desperate rogues and crude asses—and should you talk to an emperor and empire like this? Yes, should you malign and desecrate four such high councils with the four greatest Christian emperors, just for the sake of your farts and decretals? Why do you let yourselves imagine that you are better than crass, crude, ignorant asses and fools, who neither know nor wish to know what councils, bishops, churches, emperors—indeed, what God and his word—are? You are a crude ass, you ass- pope, and an ass you will remain!” –

-Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil. 1545.

…got to admit, Ol’ Cool-Hand Luther had a flair for flattery!

My “hero-editor” Matt Michael over at The Remnant further cites Luther and comments:

What are we witnessing here, if not the initial stages of a Vatican exoneration of  heresy and the rehabilitation of Protestant heretics, including Martin Luther who famously said of the papacy: “If I am prompted to say: ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ I must perforce add: ‘cursed, damned, destroyed must be the papacy.’

more on this later…

A Confluence of Regret in a Sea of Confusion



By Allan Gillis

I stopped by a friend’s blog this morning and I read his latest entry… an apology, similar to my own (see my post “I Am Pricked In My Heart” earlier this month).  It seems my dear brother Joseph Mary del Campos of The Boston Catholic Journal is scratching at the same hives that affect my skin.  We love the Holy Mother Church and feel and act on an instinct to defend her honor as some seem to be abusive and contemptible toward Her.  It is especially difficult when the pope is the one perceived as leading the charge against Her safety!  I find many, many universally-respected, seriously-thinking men that wail and howl as loud or louder than either the BCJ or myself – combined!

Yes, I had a time of reflection and regret as I faced myself in that article I presented to you…    and I must say, I had to laugh as some of the responses to my penitence on and off the blog seemed to goad me further on the path of criticism (almost for the sheer sport of it).  I want to remain on this path of watchful criticism.  I do however want the path to be respectful criticism.  I know the editor of the BCJ.  He will do the same as I am.  He loves the Church and is intelligent enough to maintain a critical mind on behalf of traditional Catholic doctrine and liturgy while striving to walk the tightrope of charity.

I wish him many blessings in this endeavor.  He’s a good, good man.  As Roman Catholics we do not worship the pope.  There are provisions for removing an errant Bishop of Rome.  We as laity are sometimes caught “between a rock and a hard place” as we have instinctive defensive mechanisms at work in our catechized mind – while ever mindful of the need to check our motivations of pride or hard-heartedness in such matters.  We doubt (as we should) our “cred” as we know that we are not trained liturgists or theologians…   but, when do “off-colored remarks” constitute papal indiscretion?  When is error a real error?  Do too few men in Rome today lack the balls to call – what seems to many over these past few years – outright heresy, what it is?

Del Campos here says: “This present editorial is an important one for the Boston Catholic Journal given the apparent movement of Francis’s papacy away from many aspects of traditional and historical Catholicism and, it would appear at times from some central aspects of Catholic Doctrine that have confused many Catholics concerning the authenticity of what the Church had always taught in light of the current ecumenical and even moral direction of the Church under Pope Francis, which to us, and to many, appears to conflict with Sacred Scripture itself concerning homosexuality, divorce, reception of the Most Holy Eucharist by those outside the Church, and even the Church itself as the absolutely unique, indispensable, and necessary means to salvation. We remain troubled by this apparent drift away from central aspects of our holy Catholic Faith. In a word, we do not understand them: both logically and ecclesiologically. Hence our vigorous reproach for what we understand as important, indeed, intolerable breaches in the continuity of Catholic Doctrine. If they are not so, then at the very least the confusion engendered by statements and actions of the Holy Father stand in need of remedy or explanation in clear terms that the common Catholic can understand as being both coherent and consistent with 2000 years of Catholic Doctrine. This much, we believe, is due the Faithful, no matter who occupies the Seat of Peter.”  [read the rest here :  ]

We are in a quandary.  G. K. Chesterton (a good Catholic man!) said; “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  JM del Campos and I will continue to do something – but, we will work harder at being rightly circumspect as Catholic men should be in such matters.

Benedict & Francis: Two Peas in a Papal Pod?

Benedict XVI

Brought to you by Allan Gillis

If you visit here often, then you know my penchant for bringing stuff from elsewhere to you here. I imagine that some of you just don’t have the time or the inclination to visit a myriad of Catholic websites. I’m good with that. I have something here though, that I simply must bring to your eyes. Michael Matt needs your prayers.  His mom just passed away and she was a great source of strength to Michael and the Catholic home he was raised in. He writes here about Ratzinger and Bergoglio. This featured piece captures my thoughts precisely. I do urge you to go to The Remant and ruminate as I further urge you to support the newspaper!

Here we are:

February 11, 2016 will mark the third anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking declaration of his intention to abdicate on February 28, 2013.

What was behind that history-changing decision? We can all guess but nobody on this side of the Tiber really knows. That he was pressured in some way seems obvious. But, why? Two words: Summorum Pontificum.

At the end of the day and despite “the dossier”, the butler, vatileaks and everything else, it’s my opinion that Benedict incurred the wrath of hell itself when he restored the Traditional Latin Mass to the mainstream of the Catholic Church (even via a motu proprio which is deeply flawed), and that this ultimately led to his abdication.

It really was all about the Mass.

In his Protecting Us with the Traditional Latin Mass, Father Juan Manuel Rodríguez de la Rosa points out that:

“The Traditional Latin Mass is like an impregnable wall that keeps intact the faith, the living Word of God, which constantly speaks to us.

“The unassailable and impregnable wall of the Traditional Latin Mass is protecting us from heresy, from perverting the Catholic faith with the dirty waters of this world which infect and pollute wherever they go through, leaving a trail of sensuality and sin, a world that is given to carnal and sexual instincts.

“The Traditional Latin Mass is protecting us from the filth of the world, but above all protects the Blessed Body and Precious Blood of Our Redeemer, as the scourge of heresy will never stop trying in vain to break down that wall that was built and sustained by God the Father Almighty.

“Heaven is protecting us in every Traditional Latin Mass. The Eternal Father, the Lamb of God, the Divine Spirit, the Immaculate Conception, and the Heavenly Court, are looking after the Traditional Latin Mass from the moment it starts, and are witnessing with heavenly glory the development of the Sacrifice of the Agnus Dei.”

This article calls to mind our raison d’etre as traditional Catholics — the Traditional Latin Mass. Every Traditional Latin Mass restored in recent years is cause of jubilation among the Church Triumphant, entrance into paradise for members of the Church Suffering and renewed hope for the Church Militant.

Since the Mass matters most to the entire Church, I was dismayed to see some recent comments here on our site arguing that Pope Benedict XVI was essentially as bad or worse than Pope Francis. This in my opinion goes too far, if for no other reason than the resurgence of the Traditional Latin Mass that took place during his pontificate and after.

While it is certainly true that Pope Benedict was no traditionalist, it seems obvious that God did work through our conflicted 265th pope in ways history itself will be hard pressed to minimize. And as his friendship with the late, great Michael Davies proved, Ratzinger/Benedict certainly did not loathe traditional Catholics… as other popes do.

Even before he was pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was acting in a manner that proved a certain sensus Catholicus had managed to survive his tenure as peritus at Vatican II. Remember, for example, when he (as head of the CDF) withdrew Father Charlie Curran’s license to teach Catholic theology due to heretical dissent on an array of dogmas and the Church’s moral teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality?

Well, those days are gone forever.

Or how about when Cardinal Ratzinger hobbled the public heretic from Seattle, Raymond Archbishop Hunthausen, for allowing homosexuals to celebrate Mass at St. James Cathedral.

Who was he to judge, right?

And as pope (regardless of his motives), at the end of the day Pope Benedict XVI lifted the SSPX excommunications, corrected the fundamental lie at the heart of the New Mass (pro multis does indeed mean ‘for many’), corroborated one of traditionalism’s central and defining arguments (that the old Mass had never been abrogated and never can be), freed up the traditional Latin Mass so that any priest in the world can offer it with or without his bishop’s permission, and gave traditionalists in general enough papal backing to put the fear of the Lord back in the liberal establishment for a time. It was rather fun, remember?

And all of this Benedict did in a mere seven years!

But not everyone was a fan. A certain Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aries, for example—already known as a “sworn enemy of the traditional Latin Mass”—was less than enthusiastic about the pontificate of Pope Benedict. He was a liberal Jesuit who rejected the fundamentally Catholic notion that as Padre Rodriguez de la Rosa points out, “the future of the Church is in the Traditional Latin Mass, because it is the Truth of the Church and because it is the light that never goes out, illuminating the path of faith towards the heavenly fatherland.”

Here in Minnesota we can attest to this, as we’re still reaping the harvest of Summorum Pontificum (despite its obvious flaws), with the TLM having expanded rapidly since 2007, a new FSSP parish thriving in these precincts, several SSPX chapels (exonerated, no longer “excommunicated” and positively bursting with vocations), some ten TLM centers and counting, many diocesan priests saying the old Mass and not a few seminarians eager to make it even more widely available in future.

I’m sorry, but the TLM does matter! It’s not everything, true; but it matters more than anything else.

Surely, the situation in the Church universal today is beyond dire and without precedent, but there’s no harm in taking some modicum of comfort from the fact that Divine Providence has seen to it that the Traditional Latin Mass—the touchstone of the old Faith—survived a direct hit from Modernism’s atom bomb.

As Bishop Fellay noted at the time of Summorum Pontificum, “By right, the practical measures taken by the pope must enable the traditional liturgy – not only the Mass, but also the sacraments – to be celebrated normally. This is an immense spiritual benefit for the whole Church, for the priests and faithful who were hitherto paralyzed by the unjust authority of the bishops. However, in the coming months it remains to be seen how these measures will be applied in fact by the bishops and parish priests. For this reason, we will continue to pray for the pope so that he may remain firm following this courageous act.”

Does anyone seriously believe that Pope Francis would have performed that ‘courageous act’? Or is it more likely he would have been piloting the Enola Gay?

My intention here is not to lionize Pope Benedict XVI whose outrageous abdication continues to be a source of consternation for us all and whose hermeneutic of continuity—based on a stubborn refusal to acknowledge Vatican II for the disaster that it was—proved to be so elusive that even he eventually abandoned all hope of finding it.

Nevertheless, does it really prove our traditionalist “cred” to argue that the Church would somehow be better off now had Papa Bergoglio gotten a head start back in 2005, or that it makes no difference either way?

What would life be like right now without the powerful spiritual bulwarks (and human consolation!) provided by hundreds of traditional Mass centers around the world, established as a direct result of SP?

How could anyone in his right mind contend that the escalating crisis in the Church today would not have been exponentially worse had the current pontificate begun seven years sooner?

If we answer the question honestly perhaps we can all agree that a conflicted Benedict need not be vilified quite so enthusiastically by traditionalists eager to demonstrate prowess at smelling out post-conciliar rats. It’s not quite that simple, and Ratzinger was never a Bergoglio, which is why he had so many enemies among radical liberals in the Church. He also had deeper Catholic roots than Bergoglio ever had, and in the end was up against all the powers of hell (including devils in cardinals’ robes), exactly as Our Lady of Fatima predicted he would be.

The reality is that the ranks of traditionalism throughout the world swelled dramatically during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, in hindsight it seems that God may have been granting His Church seven years to prepare for the worst pontificate in history, which is why we can be grateful that despite his own contamination by the modern ecclesial zeitgeist, Benedict nevertheless held out as long as he did against the wolves around him–wolves from which he would eventually flee.

Defining aspects of his pontificate made him the bane of the existence of modernists on steroids such as Kasper, Danneels and Satan himself. They got rid of him for a reason, which the St. Gallen Group now brazenly admits.

It’s all academic now, obviously, but if I had my druthers I’d certainly have taken an extension of the reign of Benedict XVI over the God forsaken free-for-all we’ve got going now. Given how the world hated Pope Benedict XVI and positively adores Pope Francis, I don’t understand how anyone could argue otherwise.

Of all the post-conciliar popes, Benedict was the one who finally blinked. And history may well reveal that the reign of Pope Benedict helped undermine the very Modernist revolution which, ironically enough, Benedict himself had had a hand in a half century earlier.

Yes, the Traditional Latin Mass is just that powerful—the Vendeans knew it, Campion and Southwell knew it, the English Catholics of the Western Uprising knew it, the Cristeros knew it and so do we.

This thing is not over yet.

Long live the Traditional Latin Mass of our Fathers, and thank God Pope Francis has reigned for only three years, rather than ten.

Review of “Phoenix From The Ashes” by H.J.A. Sire

By Augustinus

In “Phoenix From The Ashes: The making, unmaking and restoration of Catholic tradition” (Sire, Angelico Press, Keterring, OH 2015), the historian H.J.A Sire has produced a near masterpiece and exhaustive review of the sources of the crisis in the church today. If I am reading him correctly he traces those sources to 2 main events: the defeat of the Catholic cause during the religious wars of the 16th century and the rise of modernism which culminated in Vatican II in the 2oth century. The defeat of the Catholic cause during the 30 years war of the 16th century was engineered largely by a Catholic cardinal: Cardinal Richelieu in France who was a real servant of French royal power rather than the church. The passive Pope Urban VIII did little or nothing to help the Hapsburg Catholic power (centered in Spain and parts of Austria/Germany and other smaller nations in eastern Europe) so France in alliance with the protestant nations of Europe (the Nordic countries, Britain and parts of what is now Germany) devastated Germany, exhausted the Hapsburg power, enfeebled the Papacy and and set back the Catholic counter-reformation. What was left of the Catholic civilization which had flowered during the High Middle Ages exhibited a final cultural renaissance under Hapsburg rule in what remained of the Holy Roman Empire until its last emperor the saintly Charles was dethroned during the first world war.

Sire gives a negative account of Conciliarism as a phenomena supposedly inimical to Church tradition, although he himself shows how it helped to save the Church (along with St Catherine of Siena) during the crisis of the three popes. one does not have to endorse the view that councils have more authority than the Pope to see the virtues and the dangers of Concilarism. Obviously some sort of balance is required between the councils and the Popes to steer the Church rightly.

After Sire discusses the downfall of the Christian order in Europe (due to the 30 years war and the rise of capitalism wedded to a mechanical materialist version of science which he ties to protestant ideologies) he devotes the second half of his book to the dismantling of Catholic tradition. He provides a detailed review of the proceedings and documents of the Second Vatican Council and then devotes a separate chapter each to the destruction of the mass, the priesthood and the repudiation of the Kingdom of Christ. The destruction of the mass and priesthood was linked in Sire’s view to the protestant theological bias placed into Vat II documents by a cadre of cardinals and their advisors who were desperately devoted to their idea of ecumenism. For them ecumenism was to make catholicism more palatable to protestant theologians…so the mass was not a true sacrifice but instead a commemoration meal or a gathering of friends.  The Eucharist was not truly  the body and blood of our Lord as there was no real sacrifice. The priest was not overseeing a sacrifice but instead celebrating a meal with friends so his sacredness and role accordingly switched into being a presider or entertainer etc etc

Sire quotes Msr Bugnini who spearheaded implementation of the liturgical reforms after Vatican II as saying: “The Lord’s supper or the mass is the sacred assembly or gathering together of the people of God with a priest presiding to celebrate the memorial of the lord. for this reason…where two or three are gathered in my name I am there in their midst”(Art 7, original Gen Instruction, Novus Ordo).  Sire comments “We see here a compendium of modernist doctrines regarding the mass: the acceptance of the protestant notion of the Eucharist as the Lord’s supper…the spurious concept of the priest’s presiding at the mass instead of offering the the sacrifice by his priestly power in personae Christi, the presentation of the mass as a memorial instead of the reenactment of the sacrifice of Christ, the implication that the essence of the mass resides in the assembly of the people and not in its character as a sacrifice of Christ and worst of all the suggestion that Christ is present by virtue of the people’s gathering and not through his real presence in the Blessed sacrament” (p. 277)…One of the writes at this blog Stephen Shields OFS has argued that the crisis in the Church today can be traced to fall in belief in the real presence in the Blessed sacrament.

Sire also argues in the chapter on the Kingdom of Christ that Vatican II tended to adopt premises from modernist humanism and thus tended to the error that freedom of conscience protected outright error. There can be no right to belief in heresies but of course we have to beware using this principle to harm people with beliefs different from the Church. They are in error. There is no inherent human right to error but the Church needs humility and prudence to avoid persecution of others due to their errors.

There are many gems in this book and anyone wanting a fully argued case concerning the errors of Vatican II will find it in this book. Sire makes the interesting observation, for example, that the 60s did not produce Vatican II but Vatican II either produced the 60s or really contributed to some of its disorders. i did not know that the traditionalist Archbishop Lefevbre actually voted for most of the Vatican II documents including the one on Liturgy. It was the implementation of these documents that he at first was concerned with…I think Sire is too hard on John PaulI’s efforts to reach our to world religions but I understand the dangers in doing so. Sire’s assessment of Pope Benedict and Francis are mixed but I largely agree with them.

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP)


persecution  brought to you by Allan Gillis

I found this continuation of Fr. Hunwicke’s opinion on what appears to be “intolerance” [GASP!] within the church… as opposed to those who abandoned the one true faith and hereticized completely 500 years ago!  It seems that the Nouveau Catholics have a double standard when it comes to their more “traditional” brethren.
I urge you to visit Fr. Hunwicke’s site “Mutual Enrichment“!

(  )

I was initially squeamish about bringing other’s scribblings to you dear reader – but now, I find that many other’s views are so much better articulated that I could do.  I also find that other’s hear news about the “goings on” in the Catholic world and tend to write the same things I would – but only earlier!  Hence, I bring you their thoughts.

I’ll include here Fr. Hunwicke’s entire second portion to his musings on this matter:

Intolerance of minorities (2)

The Priestly Fraternity of S Peter, FSSP, was erected with lightning speed after the uncanonical episcopal consecrations performed by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. The promise was that the participants would be given, within the canonical unity and structures of the Church, the ‘deal’ which had been agreed with Archbishop Lefebvre; the ‘deal’ which he had signed, but had thought better of overnight, and had repudiated the next morning.

Broadly, this is what the FSSP was given … although the most significant item in that package, the provision for them to have a bishop, never materialised, and, to this day, never has.

Little more than a decade later, things, apparently, were not well. In the middle of 2000, the Fraternity priests learned that their canonical election of a new superior had been suspended, a new superior was to be parachuted in, and the Rectors of the Fraternity’s seminaries were replaced. A letter referred to “a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church” among the seminarians. And one (otherwise generally sympathetic) Cardinal later explained to journalists that the “Fraternity’s members must be helped in their endeavour to strike a balance between their original charism … and the outcome of their insertion within the ecclesial reality of today“. Mark that phrase!

It is not easy to see how the ecclesial reality of today can mean anything other than the prevalent ethos of Novus Ordo Catholicism. “Striking a balance” looks to me horribly like the old “Latinisation” as it used to be applied in a “uniate” context: the intolerance of the majority towards a culturally different minority, of which, for some reason, they feel dreadfully fearful. Or is the problem that Traditionalists are not humble enough? That they continue to address reasoned questions to the ecclesial reality of today?

Ecumenism is fashionable in some Catholic circles. I have long suspected that ‘liberal’ Catholics, who profess a sympathy for Ecumenism, favour it because their real desire is to change their own Church so that it conforms to the paradigms of Liberal Protestantism. Be that as it may, there is something strange about Catholics who have a professed warm ecumenical enthusiasm for ecclesial bodies which have been separated from them for half a millennium … but who yet have a visible and vocal visceral intolerance towards fellow Catholics living loyally in canonical structures confirmed by the Church.
To be continued. —-

This caught my eye as I am a member of the FSSP Confraternity.  I can only imagine how isolated and tenuously-connected the poor priests in the SSPX feel!  Pray for them

Music in the Catholic Church, Part 3

If you’ve made it through the first two articles, you must be wondering if the issues with Catholic Church music are simply unsurmountable. I know I beat my head against this issue for a long time, but I had an experience around ten years ago that helped move me in a different direction.

Back then, I was a backup guitar player in a very good choir that specialized in “modern” hymns from the 1980’s (irony intended) with a strong soprano line and decent instrumentation. During the summer months, I would fill in as Director with a small group while the choir took their August break. However, that year we were in for a shock. Our loved and respected Director got into a deep disagreement with the Pastor and halfway through the August break, we all received notice that she was resigning immediately. The rest of the choir members ran for cover, but I was one of two fill-ins that were left holding the bag, so I kept at it.

It was a rough start. Suddenly, I had to pick up all the work that the Director handles in the background. I had no idea how much work was involved to really pull things together, but I started to learn. Shortly thereafter, while chatting with one of the regulars after Mass, I finally figured out what I needed to do. It was a simple conversation. I had mentioned that it was difficult trying to bring choir members back in after the big break up and he said “Don’t worry about it. This Church is full of elderly parishioners and no one new is coming in. It will probably close in a few years. It’s not worth the effort”.

So that was it. God put me into a position I would never have imagined and then threw down the challenge. With a background like mine (twenty years in rock bands – no classical training), no Church would have given me a second look, yet somehow there I was. God has a wonderful sense of humor.

The challenge was clear. We had an aging population with an average of four to five funerals a week. No families. No young adults. No money. Nothing to lose. Our Pastor announced he would find a new professional Choir Director and started the search, but had no takers. His requirements (classical experience) and insanely low pay scale shut out everyone. I didn’t care. I have a strong belief in stewardship and did not need the money, so I kept on playing. Eventually a few brave members felt sorry for me and came back. It was’t bad, but I still had that conversation in my head about the parish closing and it felt like a challenge. So I asked my pastor: “What if we play music for the people we want to bring in instead of the people that are here already”. Somehow, he agreed. I suspect he felt he had nothing to lose at this point as well, but I had an ally. I had a vision of a Church full of families with kids and starting thinking about how to make that happen.

This introduces the first and second concept for successful Church Music.

Concept #1: Christianity is an evangelical religion. We are all asked by God to reach out to others and spread the Gospel, so reaching out with music that would be appreciated by young families is a critical part of the process. Most young people who listen to any Christian music listen to Christian radio. It’s good, modern, upbeat and focused on Jesus.

Concept#2: Get support from the Pastor. I knew that our entrenched congregation would hate anything new and would immediately bring it to the Pastor. It was critical to get his buy in before getting in too deep. I knew it would be a struggle, but had no idea how nasty it would get. I was blessed with a Pastor that ran interference with the angry mob, but not all Pastors are brave enough to support this type of change, even in one Mass.

The book “Rebuilt” talks about this concept with much more than music. They considered their parish to include everyone in their zip code and put their focus on reaching out to the families in their geography. It’s a great book and highly recommended if you want to embark on a journey of growth.

I had a direction and a sponsor, but the traditional choir types were not fans either. This led to the next step in the process:

Concept#3: Get the best musicians you can in the area. Musicians who spent time in rock bands tended to be flexible and are used to playing by ear. They usually had a strong appreciation for the new Christian music on the radio and were not afraid to give it a try. Most also had experience with harmonies, which broke us out of the traditional charts with parts and put us into more natural harmonies that modernized even the most traditional hymns. Some parishes are blessed with a large number of good musicians with rock band experience, but most do not. I am a firm believer that God gives us the tools we need to do the job, even if we don’t consider them optimal. My recommendation is to start small and work with what you have. I started with just my guitar and a few singers, but eventually, we expanded to include drums, piano and lead guitars, along with additional singers. Just don’t expect it to happen right away and recognize that people come are not always in it for the long haul. Changes happen (a lot).

Now you’ve got a start, but the toughest part is waiting.

(Next up: Picking the music)

Review of “Robert Cardinal Sarah; God or nothing: A conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat” Ignatius Press; San Francisco: 2015).

By Augustinus


In God or nothing French journalist Nicolas Diat has a wide ranging conversation with Cardinal Sarah about the church in the 21st century. Cardinal Sarah was almost elected Pope after Benedict stepped down. Sarah has had a remarkable life history. Born in 1945 in a remote village in Guinea in Africa his family was exposed to the missionary work of the Holy Ghost fathers who then sent him to seminary when he was 12. He was ordained a priest at age 24 in 1969 during the persecution of the church under the communist regime then in power in Guinea. He was made archbishop of Conarky Guinea in 1979 and has steadily risen in the Church since then. He is considered a conservative in the current culture wars because he has opposed any slackening of traditional church teaching on homosexuality, marriage, and divorce.

Both in the current book and in the past he has frequently chided the church in western countries for their insistent focus on issues of women’s rights, divorce, and the like while their fellow Catholics in the middle east, Africa and Asia are being jailed, tortured, burned alive, and massacred for their faith.

Despite his putative conservative and traditionalist stances on church issues Pope Francis appointed Sarah to the position of Head of the Congregation of the Divine Worship and Discipline of the sacraments. Judging from his responses to questions by Diat concerning the Latin mass Sarah appears to take the same position Pope Benedict took: The Latin mass and the Novus Ordo are two version of one divinely inspired rite. The Latin mass should be encouraged as it is in many ways superior to mass in the vernacular but the two versions are equally valid. Sarah believes that a new version of the rite will emerge organically over the next century. This new version will combine the best of the Tridentine and the Novus Ordo versions.

Diat asked Sarah repeatedly about the crisis in the modern church and his consistent answer was the sources of the crisis are multiple and the solution is one: prayer. Prayer is the solution because it is saints and doctors of the church who will save the church and prayer is what makes people saints.

I was enormously impressed by Sarah as he comes across in these interviews as eloquent, wise, well-spoken, intelligent, administratively competent, deeply rooted in Church documents and in holy scripture (it seems he can quote hundreds of docs and all of scripture from memory) and most of all it was clear that he was first and foremost a man of prayer.

Sarah quotes Pope Francis approvingly when Francis says that prayer must be a kind of struggle with the Lord. We are advised by the Lord himself to keep knocking on the door until we rouse the owner within. But Sarah also says that prayer must be a kind of resting in the Lord and listening. We must rest and wait until the Holy Spirit prays within us. Then we really “pray without ceasing”. “We must often nestle close to the Virgin of silence to ask her to obtain for us the grace of loving silence and of interior virginity, in other words, a purity of heart and a willingness to listen that banishes any presence except God’s” (p. 207).

Flip Turns and the Latin Mass

Latin Mass

Brought to you by Allan Gillis from The Remnant:

There is nothing natural about it.

You come into the wall, you turn yourself upside down, blindly reach for the wall with your feet, push off, and hope you are headed in the right direction.

Flip Turns. I have dreaded flip turns for as long as I have been swimming, which is going over a dozen years now.

For most of those years, even though I swam 5 times a week at points, I never learned how to do flip turns. You know those cool turns that Olympic swimmers do and we watch on underwater cameras? They look so easy. They’re not.

Oh sure, I tried a few times, but it was always so disorienting and uncomfortable. I always seemed to be in the wrong position and doing the wrong thing. I felt like everyone was looking at me as a fool. I quickly gave them up.

In this way, flip turns are a lot like the Traditional Latin Mass. Some of us may have once or twice attended a Latin Mass, but every time we do it we feel uncomfortable. We are standing when we should be kneeling. You have no idea where the priest is in the mass. We only have the little red book without any of the readings. Surely, everybody must be noticing that I don’t have a clue what I am doing. It is disorienting and we don’t immediately get anything out of it, so we give up. What’s the point?

So like I said, I never learned how to do flip turns. A few years ago, after a significant hiatus, I started swimming again. I tried a few flip turns, and as always, it was awful and uncomfortable, and so I gave up for the same reasons I always had. “Let me just focus on swimming,” I said to myself. ”Flip turns aren’t really that much better anyway.”

But then a thought occurred to me. Since I was just getting back into things, and was not in any way competitive, and most of the people at the pool where I swam seemed to be contemporaries of Teddy Roosevelt, I decided that now was the time. I checked on the Google and YouTube machines to find the best way to do it and person after person said this one simple thing. “The only way to learn how to do flip turns is to do it a thousand times. Do it a thousand times, and you will have it.”

So it was then I started doing flip turns. And let me tell you this. It. Was. Awful. Water up my nose. Breathing all off. On several occasions I turned too early and completely missed the wall, ending in an embarrassing dead man’s float. Sometimes I was too close to the wall and actually had my legs land outside the pool on the deck with a loud and painful thud. Sometimes I ended up in the wrong lane after push off, heading right at another swimmer. That happened three times. All of it was so uncomfortable and embarrassing.

I was all over the place and my swimming suffered. Actually, I couldn’t even think about swim mechanics as I swam because all of my attention was focused on the next flip turn. And so it went for weeks. But over time, I missed less and less and I learned how to time my breathing and my approach stroke better. My push-offs became straighter and straighter.

And lo and behold, by the time I reached my 1,000th flip turn, I had it down. I didn’t even really need to think about it anymore. So I began to re-focus on my swim mechanics and then I noticed something.

There was a guy that often swam at the same time as I did. We often shared a lane as we swam at the same speed and so we didn’t get in each other’s way. He didn’t do flip turns. Shortly after my thousandth flip turn, he was swimming in the lane next to me and our swimming speed still matched up. But when we got to the wall, I was a full body-length ahead of him coming off the wall. No extra effort, but a full body-length advantage on each lap. Wow, it turned out there was a benefit after all; you just have to suffer repetition and patiently learn and then suddenly it is all clear. This is why you put the time in to learn. This is why you suffered through discomfort and embarrassment. All because at the end, it really is better.

The Latin Mass can be the same way. It feels awkward and pointless when we first assist at a Latin Mass, particularly a low mass. We watch the other experienced faithful kneel and stand and try to copy them. Even after a few visits, the only thing we seem to have mastered is the “et cum spiritu tuo.” We can barely follow what is happening and but for the re-readings in English, we wouldn’t have a clue. It all seems pointless. Awkward silence, seemingly vain repetitions, and tons of stuff we can’t understand even if we can hear it; all with little or no discernible benefit. Honestly, it can seem a lot like flip turns when you first start.

But something amazing happens when we stick with it. You get a good missal and learn the basics of following along. You become familiar with the Ordinary of the mass, having read it and its translation dozens of times. You know where to find the propers and read along. Then you start to read the red instructions and begin to understand why the priest is doing what he is doing and what he is saying. You know what to expect each day and it doesn’t really matter which priest is saying the mass.

And then one day you come to realize that you are no longer thinking about any of that and are totally focused on Christ in the mass. That you are joined with the priest as he offers the sacrifice. Your participation is much more active than it ever was before, even though you do less. That in the silence you once found awkward, you now hear God, like you never have before. And then you know why it was all worth it and, like flip turns, it is hard to remember what it was like before you knew.